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Author: Chia-Lun Chang

Publisher: Nightboat Books (2022)

An arch, precise collection of poems that casts world-historical hierarchies in an aspic mold and serves them back to us on a warped platter.

Reading Prescribee is not dissimilar to the experience of coming across a recipe in a vintage American cookbook: it transforms the familiar ingredients of contemporary life into an uncanny, discomfiting concoction. Wielding English as a foreign language and medium, Chang redefines the history of Taiwan and captures the alienation of immigrant experience with a startlingly original voice. Flouting tired expectations of race, gender, nationality, and citizen status, Prescribee is as provocative as it is perceptive, as playful as it is sobering.

"Composed as a love song of the immediate, Chang writes of the outsider, one that seeks both entry and distance; writing of memory and history, arriving and departing, and the lonely, lyric architecture of in-betweenness."

–rob mclennan

"Prescribee is full of surprises. The next page, the next line, even the next word turning away, or inward, or sharply upward in jagged spikes of feeling, controlled bursts of detail. Chia-Lun Chang’s voice is clear and bright and highly engaging—yet somehow elusive, keeping the reader on the move, asking questions and in the process, lighting up pleasure centers of the mind and the heart."

–Charles Yu

"Chia-Lun Chang’s Prescribee is something altogether alchemical: how else to describe how Chang’s vision strips familiar narratives of their crude, suffocating crust, how her language foments fresh, subversive ways of thinking and feeling? These poems smuggle strange, urgent things across borders: “my throat has not applied for a passport / it is too thick to pass through your years.” There is music in them that ears have never alighted on before, an exophonic tongue that remindings us that language left deviant and wild is where the most potent forms of resistance and intervention begins. Prescribee is an irreducible debut, an electrifying phantasmagoria."

–Jenny Xie

"Reading Chia-Lun Chang’s cutthroat, tendrilled debut, I find my sense of language as a material and a structure shifting and growing in a way that no other poet invites. The properties of English, poured through the machines of Chang’s poems, can shift from a cruel and violent tool of empire, gender, and capital to a beautiful and strange meeting place: 'Today you arrive in the gardenia. Your vehicle, a pinwheel.' I experience Chang’s poetry as a potent tonic that treats language as the imperfect, (de)generative, and living substance through which we navigate both lived and imagined experience in the face of fractured belonging. These poems are terrifying, real, dreamlike, and uncompromisingly original."

–Emily Skillings

"Oh how I love (lived) Chia-Lun Chang’s Prescribee! Not since my encounters with Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons, John Ashbery’s The Tennis Court Oath, and Kamau Brathwaite’s Eleguas have I experienced the power of the (my) multilingual brain thinking out loud, unapologetic, across the pages of a book of poetry in English. This debut endtroduces to American poetry a disorientalist speaker whose accents float against nostalgia and longing for family members; foundering relationships and disrespectful advice; French military fantasy and obscure history; filariasis and naive American boys; creepy male American photographers; and the cold, cold heart of a green-card-denying government. Prescribee desires and laments a (Jan)US America whose 'boundaries assimilate'/ 'border crosses beef soup' yet also condemns whoever comes here for love (and chooses to remain after) to a struggle 'with stacks of papers' 'suppressed/shuddered' by 'shredders/shelters.' Defiant '{l}ike a song/that has not been hurt,' Chang 'lay{s} down' linguistically intricate lyric poetry and prose whose slippages summon the fruit mutations and matadoras of Frances Chung, Hsia Yü, and Sarah Gambito, while thrumming with the registers of the probing traveler of Chen Zhifan’s My America Journal. 'Invisionable until//the empire murders itself,' Prescribee stands out for its darkly comic dreaming through the U.S. America, conjured in an 'Engli-shhh' whose honey still burns my throat."

–Paolo Javier